EDMONTON -- A tutoring service was not, in fact, mentoring University of Alberta students but providing them the answers in two computer science classes, the school says in a warning letter to other hopeful grads.

Forty students in the fall term were charged and are facing "significant sanctions" after cheating on lab assignments while using Ez4EDU, a Feb. 28 letter addressed to computing science students reads.

A U of A spokesperson confirmed the letter, which says Ez4EDU "appears to be operating as a cheating rather than tutoring service," was legitimate. 

Ez4EDU is a Chinese platform that advertises academic tutoring to overseas college students in Edmonton, Vancouver and several Ontario cities, as well as in the U.S. The seven-year-old company, Easy Group, was founded in Toronto and has more than 60 employees in Edmonton and 700 across the country.

"Some students have reported that the service is providing students with solutions to the CMPUT 174 and 175 lab assignments. The students are simply asked to make slight changes before submitting as their own," the faculty of science letter reads, referencing two foundational computation courses.

CEO Gary Kang said he was surprised to learn of the letter on Monday as he considers Ez4EDU a "very reputable company" that honours academic integrity.

It has launched an internal review, and will be looking to coordinate with the U of A, Kang said.

"I believe on this kind of matter, we're on the same side."

The U of A also wrote to computer science students that "it has been determined that some students currently enrolled in Computing Science courses are giving Ez4EDU staff access to CMPUT course software so that the solutions formulated by the service can be tested before release."

Kang said Ez4EDU uses open source, online information, and as such, may reference old class materials.

"Sometimes professors, they don't really change the materials year by year and that might cause a problem. But I'm not for sure."

However, an alum, who spoke to CTV News Edmonton on the condition of anonymity, doubts this. The 2018 computer science grad said he was offered a job after receiving legitimate tutoring himself, which he declined because he didn't consider the company honourable. He told CTV News Edmonton his base wage would have increased with every student he tutored, and Easy Education specifically targeted Chinese students who were used to being tutored from a young age.

"They don't really care about what the student will face and they also don't care about like what the student will become if all the student taking the tutor service, instead of just learning by themselves."

The grad also said he tried to report his concern – but didn't hear back.

"I talk about it with my friends, but they say that's how the university work… But now, when it went up to 40 student from the university start to become nervous."

The university has warned students anyone caught facilitating cheating may face expulsion.

The "significant sanctions" the 40 students face could be expulsion, suspension, or rescission of degree. While Director of Student Conduct Deb Eerke couldn't speak to the case's specifics, she did say cheating can result in serious penalties.

"If you have anyone who's providing answers, or just giving information without explaining it, that's where we would have that line," Eerke explained.

The students' union told CTV News Edmonton it was waiting to hear what penalties would be handed out, but that it would be looking to ensure students know they are entitled to representation or appeal request.

According to union president Akanksha Bhatnagar, Ez4EDU was not listed through the union's tutor registry.

The U of A added assignments will be screened by the department and faculty moving forward.


"Contract cheating" is a billion-dollar industry, says a University of Calgary assistant professor whose research specializes in the area.

According to Sarah Eaton of the Werklund School of Education, such companies finish assignments or write theses under the guise of tutoring – but what she actually says is unethical tutoring.

"They operate in every country. Some of the research I’ve done here with colleagues at the University of Calgary, we documented companies targeting students as young as Grade 6," Eaton told CTV News Edmonton.

"This isn’t just restricted to higher education. It’s not restricted to one particular cultural group. It’s not restricted to one particular discipline.

"It’s rampant across all levels of education."

According to Eaton, students in high pressure fields – like computer science, or engineering and business – are targeted because their program's expectations often exceed what they can actually complete.

Her research lines up with the U of A alum's account.

"The student is really high pressure, they have five courses need to learn each semester, and if they can save some time by just spending more money, I think many people may be willing to do so," he told CTV News Edmonton.

Contract cheating signals two issues, Eaton said, the first being that cheaters aren't earning their credential.

"The degree or the parchment is a symbol of the learning… [Cheating] doesn’t really help them in the end."

The second issue is a system that overworks while overlooking the impact on mental health.

Eaton advised students and student unions get involved in curriculum design, and institutions to listen to the feedback they're provided.

"It’s also really important for universities to recognize that this is a global problem. Even though this one story was about computer science, one program at the U of A, it's happening in every department, in every post-secondary learning institution and probably every high school across the province.

"This isn’t an isolated incident.”

The U of A has advised students that legitimate tutoring services will help them understand concepts, and reminded them that instructors are available for questions about assignments.

"A lot of students think that having high grades is the most important thing, and it's not," Eerke said.

"If you're focusing on your grades, you're absolutely missing out on your education."